City of God (2002 film)

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City of God
CidadedeDeus.jpg
Original poster
Directed byFernando Meirelles
Kátia Lund (co-director)
Produced byAndrea Barata Ribeiro
Mauricio Andrade Ramos
Elisa Tolomelli
Walter Salles
Screenplay byBráulio Mantovani
Based onCity of God 
by Paulo Lins
StarringAlexandre Rodrigues
Alice Braga
Leandro Firmino
Phellipe Haagensen
Douglas Silva
Jonathan Haagensen
Matheus Nachtergaele
Seu Jorge
Roberta Rodrigues
Graziella Moretto
Music byEd Cortês
Antonio Pinto
CinematographyCésar Charlone
Edited byDaniel Rezende
Production
  company
O2 Filmes
Globo Filmes
StudioCanal
Wild Bunch
Distributed byMiramax Films (US)
Buena Vista International
Release date(s)
  • 18 May 2002 (2002-05-18) (Cannes)
  • 30 August 2002 (2002-08-30) (Brazil)
Running time130 minutes
135 minutes (TIFF)
CountryBrazil
LanguagePortuguese (Brazilian)
BudgetR$8.5 million[citation needed]
Box office$30,641,770
 
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City of God
CidadedeDeus.jpg
Original poster
Directed byFernando Meirelles
Kátia Lund (co-director)
Produced byAndrea Barata Ribeiro
Mauricio Andrade Ramos
Elisa Tolomelli
Walter Salles
Screenplay byBráulio Mantovani
Based onCity of God 
by Paulo Lins
StarringAlexandre Rodrigues
Alice Braga
Leandro Firmino
Phellipe Haagensen
Douglas Silva
Jonathan Haagensen
Matheus Nachtergaele
Seu Jorge
Roberta Rodrigues
Graziella Moretto
Music byEd Cortês
Antonio Pinto
CinematographyCésar Charlone
Edited byDaniel Rezende
Production
  company
O2 Filmes
Globo Filmes
StudioCanal
Wild Bunch
Distributed byMiramax Films (US)
Buena Vista International
Release date(s)
  • 18 May 2002 (2002-05-18) (Cannes)
  • 30 August 2002 (2002-08-30) (Brazil)
Running time130 minutes
135 minutes (TIFF)
CountryBrazil
LanguagePortuguese (Brazilian)
BudgetR$8.5 million[citation needed]
Box office$30,641,770

City of God (Portuguese: Cidade de Deus) is a 2002 Brazilian crime drama film directed by Fernando Meirelles and co-directed by Kátia Lund, released in its home country in 2002 and worldwide in 2003. The story was adapted by Bráulio Mantovani from the 1997 novel of the same name written by Paulo Lins, but the plot is loosely based on real events. It depicts the growth of organized crime in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro, between the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1980s, with the closure of the film depicting the war between the drug dealer Li'l Zé and criminal Knockout Ned. The tagline is "If you run, the buck catches; if you stay, the buck eats", (a proverb analogous to the English "Damned if you do, damned if you don't").

The cast includes Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Jonathan Haagensen, Douglas Silva, Alice Braga and Seu Jorge. Most of the actors were, in fact, residents of favelas such as Vidigal and the Cidade de Deus itself.

The film attained worldwide critical acclaim, receiving four Academy Award nominations in 2004: Best Cinematography (César Charlone), Best Directing (Meirelles), Best Editing (Daniel Rezende) and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) (Mantovani). Before that, in 2003 it had been chosen to be Brazil's runner for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but it was not nominated to be one of the five finalists. If it had been nominated, it would have been ineligible the next year for any other category.

Meirelles and Lund went on to create the City of Men TV series and film City of Men, which share some of the actors (notably leads Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha) and their setting with City of God.

Plot[edit]

Chickens are being prepared for a meal when a chicken escapes and an armed gang chases after it in a favela called the Cidade de Deus ("City of God"). The chicken stops between the gang and a young man named Rocket (Buscapé), who believes that the gang wants to kill him. A flashback traces Rocket, the narrator, back to the 1960s.

Three impoverished, amateur thieves known as the "Tender Trio" – Shaggy, Clipper, and Goose – rob and loot business owners; Goose is Rocket's brother. The thieves split part of the loot with the citizens of the City, and are protected by them in return. Several younger boys idolize the trio and one, Li'l Dice (Dadinho), convinces them to hold up a motel and rob its occupants. The gang agree but, resolving not to kill anyone, tell Li'l Dice to serve as lookout. They give him a gun and tell him to fire a warning shot if the police arrive but an unsatisfied Li'l Dice fires a warning shot mid-robbery and guns down the motel inhabitants once the gang have run off. The massacre brings the attention of the police, forcing the trio to split up: Clipper joins the church, Shaggy is shot by the police while trying to escape the favela, and Goose is shot by Li'l Dice after taking the thieving boy's money while his friend Benny (Bené) watches.

Later in the '70s, Rocket has joined a group of young hippies. He enjoys photography, and likes one girl, but his attempts to get close to her are ruined by a group of petty criminal kids known as "The Runts". Li'l Dice now calls himself "Li'l Zé" ("Zé Pequeno"), and along with Benny has established a drug empire by eliminating all of the competition, except for one dealer named Carrot, and forcing Carrot's manager Blackie (Neguinho) to work for him instead.

A relative peace has come over the City of God under the reign of Li'l Zé, who avoids police attention by having an initiate kill a Runt. Zé plans to kill Carrot, but Benny talks him out of it.

Eventually, Benny and his girlfriend decide to leave the City, but during the farewell party Zé is distracted, and Blackie accidentally kills Benny while trying to shoot Li'l Zé. As Benny was the only man holding Zé back from taking over Carrot's business, his death leaves Zé unchecked and Carrot kills Blackie for endangering his life.

Following Benny's death, Zé beats up a peaceful man named Knockout Ned and rapes Ned's girlfriend. After Ned's brother stabs Zé, his gang retaliates by killing his brother and firing on Ned's house and killing his uncle. Ned, looking for revenge, sides with Carrot and eventually a war breaks out between Carrot and Zé.

As the '80's begin, both sides enlist more "soldiers", with Zé providing weapons for the Runts and eventually the reason for the war is forgotten. One day, Zé has Rocket take photos of him and his gang. After Rocket leaves his film with a friend who works at a newspaper, a female reporter publishes one of the prints, since nobody can get into the City of God anymore. Rocket takes a romantic interest in the reporter, eventually losing his virginity to her.

Rocket thinks his life is endangered but agrees to continue taking photographs, not realizing Zé is very pleased with increased notoriety. Rocket then returns to the City for more photographs, bringing the film to its beginning. Confronted by the gang, Rocket is surprised that Zé is asking him to take pictures, but as he prepares to take the photo after forgetting the chicken, the police arrive, who drive off when Carrot arrives. In the gunfight, Ned is killed by a boy who has infiltrated his gang to avenge his father, a security guard who was killed by Ned during a bank robbery. The police capture Li'l Zé and Carrot, planning to give the media Carrot, whose gang never paid off the police, while they steal Zé's money and let him go. He is then murdered by the Runts who intend to run the criminal enterprise themselves. Rocket secretly takes pictures of both scenes, as well as Zé's dead body, and brings them back to the newspaper.

Rocket is seen in the newspaper office looking at all of his photographs through a magnifying glass, and deciding whether to publish the photo of corrupt cops and become famous or the photo of Li'l Zé's body and get an internship. He decides on the latter and the film ends with the Runts walking around the City of God, making a hit list of the dealers they plan to kill in order to take over the drug business. They mention that a Comando Vermelho ("Red Command") is coming.

Cast[edit]

Many characters are known only by nicknames. The literal translation of these nicknames is given next to their original Portuguese name; the names given in English subtitles are sometimes different.

NameActor(s)Name in English subtitlesDescription
Buscapé ("Firecracker")Alexandre Rodrigues (adult)
Luis Otávio (child)
RocketThe main narrator. A quiet, honest boy who dreams of becoming a photographer, and the only character who seems to keep from being dragged down into corruption and murder during the gang wars.
Zé Pequeno ("Little Joe" "Lil Zé")
childhood: Dadinho ("Little Eddy" "Lil Dice")
Leandro Firmino da Hora (adult)
Douglas Silva (child)
Li'l Zé
Li'l Dice
A sociopathic drug dealer who takes sadistic pleasure in killing his rivals. When his only friend, Benny, is struck by fate, it drives him over the edge. "Dado" is a common nickname for Eduardo, and "inho" a diminutive suffix; "dado" also means "dice". The fact that he becomes Zé Pequeno as an adult may suggest that his Christian name is José Eduardo – is a nickname for José, while pequeno means "little". However, since the name was chosen in a religious ceremony, it may also be unrelated to his actual name.
Bené ("Benny")Phellipe Haagensen (adult)
Michel de Souza (child)
BennyZé's longtime partner in crime, he is a friendly City of God drug dealer who fancies himself a sort of Robin Hood, and wants to eventually lead an honest life.
Sandro, nicknamed Cenoura ("Carrot")Matheus NachtergaeleCarrotA smaller-scale drug dealer who is friendly with Benny but is constantly threatened by Zé.
Mané Galinha ("Chicken Manny")Seu JorgeKnockout NedA handsome, charismatic ladies' man. Zé rapes his girlfriend and then proceeds to massacre several members of Ned's family. Ned joins forces with Carrot to retaliate against Zé. His name was changed for the English subtitles because in English, "chicken" is a term for a coward (in Brazil it denotes popularity among women). "Mané" is a nickname for Manuel.
Cabeleira ("Long Hair")Jonathan HaagensenShaggyOlder brother of Bené ("Benny") and the leader of the Tender Trio ("Trio Ternura"), a group of thieves who share their profit with the population of the City of God.
Marreco ("Garganey")Renato de SouzaGooseOne of the Tender Trio, and Rocket's brother.
Alicate ("Pliers")Jefechander SuplinoClipperOne of the Tender Trio. Later gives up crime and joins the church.
Barbantinho ("Little twine")Edson Oliveira (adult)
Emerson Gomes (child)
StringyChildhood friend of Rocket.
AngélicaAlice BragaAngélicaAn old friend and love interest of Rocket, and later Benny's girlfriend, who motivates him to abandon the criminal life.
TiagoDaniel ZettelTiagoAngélica's redheaded boyfriend, who later becomes Li'l Zé's associate and a drug addict.
Filé com Fritas ("Steak with Fries")Darlan CunhaSteak with FriesA young drug addict hired by Zé's gang.
Charles, nicknamed Tio Sam ("Uncle Sam")Charles ParaventiCharles / Uncle SamA weapons dealer.
Marina CintraGraziella MorettoMarina CintraA journalist for Jornal do Brasil, who hires Rocket as a photographer. Rocket has his first sexual experience with her.
Touro ("Bull")Luiz Carlos Ribeiro SeixasTouroAn honest police officer.
Cabeção ("Big Head")Maurício MarquesMelonheadA corrupt police officer.
Lampião ("Lantern")Thiago MartinsLampiãoChild leader of the Runts gang
Marcos JunqueiraOtávioMarcos JunqueiraChild leader of the Runts gang

Production[edit]

On the bonus DVD, it is revealed that the only professional actor with years of filming experience was Matheus Nachtergaele, who played the supporting role of Carrot.[1] Most of the remaining cast were from real-life favelas, and in some cases, even the real-life City of God favela itself. According to Meirelles, amateur actors were used for two reasons: the lack of available professional black actors, and the desire for authenticity. Meirelles explained: "Today I can open a casting call and have 500 black actors, but just ten years ago this possibility did not exist. In Brazil there were three or four young black actors and at the same time I felt that actors from the middle class could not make the film. I needed authenticity."[2] Beginning about 2000, about a hundred children and young people were hand-picked and placed into an "actors' workshop" for several months.[1] In contrast to more traditional methods (e.g. studying theatre and rehearsing), it focused on simulating authentic street war scenes, such as a hold-up, a scuffle, a shoot-out etc. A lot came from improvisation, as it was thought better to create an authentic, gritty atmosphere. This way, the inexperienced cast soon learned to move and act naturally.[1]

Prior to City of God, Lund and Meirelles filmed the short film Golden Gate as a sort of test run.[1] Only after then was the casting for City of God finalized[citation needed].

Appropriately, the film ends eavesdropping on the machinations of the "Runts" as they assemble their death list. The real gang "Caixa Baixa" (Low Gang) is rumored to have composed such a list. After filming, the crew could not leave the cast to return to their old lives in the favelas. Help groups were set up to help those involved in the production to build more promising futures[citation needed].

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

The film was screened out of competition at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.[3] In Brazil, City of God garnered the largest audience for a domestic film in 2002, with over 3.1 million tickets sold, and a gross of 18.6 million reais ($10.3 million).[4] The film also grossed over 7 million US$ in the U.S. and over 30 million worldwide.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

City of God received critical acclaim from major publications in the United States, gathering 90% of favourable reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.[6] Empire chose it as the 177th best film of all time in 2008,[7] and TIME chose it as one of the 100 greatest films of all time.[8] Critic Roger Ebert gave the film a four-star review, writing "'City of God' churns with furious energy as it plunges into the story of the slum gangs of Rio de Janeiro. Breathtaking and terrifying, urgently involved with its characters, it announces a new director of great gifts and passions: Fernando Meirelles. Remember the name."[9]

City of God was ranked third in Film4's "50 Films to See Before You Die", and ranked No.7 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010.[10] It was also ranked No.6 on The Guardian's list of "the 25 Best Action Movies Ever".[11] It was ranked 1# in Paste magazine's 50 best movies of the Decade (2000-2009)[citation needed]

Top ten lists[edit]

The film appeared on several American critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2003.[12]

Awards and nominations[edit]

City of God won fifty-five awards and received another twenty-nine nominations. Among those:

Academy Awards
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards
BAFTA Film Awards
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
Golden Globe Awards
Independent Spirit Awards
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards
New York Film Critics Circle Awards
Satellite Awards
Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards
Toronto Film Critics Association Awards
Toronto International Film Festival

Music[edit]

The score to the film composed by Antonio Pinto and Ed Córtes. It was followed by two remix albums. Songs from the film:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d City of God DVD extras
  2. ^ Bessa, Priscila. "Dez anos depois, diretor de Cidade de Deus diz ter prejuízo de R$ 4 milhões". 4/6/2012. Internet Group / ig.com.br. Retrieved 9 December 2012. "Hoje posso abrir um teste para 500 atores negros, mas há apenas 10 anos essa possibilidade não existia. Tinham no Brasil três ou quatro atores negros jovens e ao mesmo tempo eu sentia que atores da classe média não conseguiriam fazer aquele filme. Eu precisava de autenticidade" 
  3. ^ "Festival de Cannes: City of God". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 1 November 2009. 
  4. ^ "Informe 269" (PDF) (in Portuguese). Filme B. 
  5. ^ City of God at Box Office Mojo.
  6. ^ City of God at Rotten Tomatoes.
  7. ^ The 500 Greatest Movies of All-Time: 184–175, Empire
  8. ^ "City of God – ALL-TIME 100 movies". TIME. 12 February 2005. Archived from the original on 2005-05-25. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  9. ^ "City of God (2002)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 28 April 2010. 
  10. ^ "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema | 7. City of God". Empire. 
  11. ^ Fox, Killian (19 October 2010). "City of God: No 6 best action movie and war film of all time | Film | The Guardian". The Guardian (London). 
  12. ^ "Metacritic: 2003 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 25 December 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2008. 

External links[edit]